• Subscribe to Crisis

  • The views expressed by the authors and editorial staff are not necessarily the views of
    Sophia Institute, Holy Spirit College, or the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts.

    Subscribe to Crisis

    (It's Free)

    Go to Crisis homepage

    • Pingback: Healthy Societies Need Successful Marriages | Catholic Canada

    • musicacre

      Thank you! So much clarity in such a short article! It’s so hard to explain to people how extremely connected divorce is to a failing society, you really nailed it! The second last paragraph in particular, puts it in a nutshell. Oftentimes young people (even Catholics) won’t take the time to read any of the excellent books out there on marriage, so this article can serve as a beginning, to spark the interest. We still all have much to learn from the collective wisdom of the Popes, past and the the present-day one! I think your students are lucky and I hope you keep writing pieces like this!

    • Mitchell Kalpakgian

      Thank you for an eloquent and illuminating essay on a subject of supreme importance for civilization. As even Homer shows in the ODYSSEY, the home is the center of civilization, and marriage is the heart of the family. Without the virtues of noble men who will defend the home and found families in loving marriages and without the virtues of generous women who provide a sense of permanence and stability that orders the family and who sacrifice for the well-being and education of children, society will degenerate. Children will not know the balance of justice and mercy, strength and gentleness, will power and sensitivity that only the complementary virtues of fathers and mothers exemplify in holy marriages.

      • Tout

        KALPAKGIAN very good. Now if you will demand communion-rails in our churches, where children can kneel besides their parents, children may learn that it starts by honoring God. Even their parents kneel for Him.

        • Ford Oxaal

          A bit off-topic, but it is true that when a child sees an adult genuflect gracefully before the tabernacle, a profound impression is made.

    • Prof_Override

      Well put and eloquent, however … “It is precisely because the husband and wife are not the same in their mode of being human and even in their physical relations to one another that they can most fully embody the complete gift of self that love demands. Each complements the other; each completes the other, and this completion is not subjective but an objective, incarnate fact.” This describes virtually all the same sex pairs I’ve encountered. Your argument for marriage is beautiful, but it’s an argument for same sex marriage and not against it.

      • Ford Oxaal

        The argument for same gender marriage is based on the notion that society is benefited by augmenting equal rights and advancing liberty. This argument is based on individual rights alone, and could therefore be logically extended to no end, thus nullifying marriage. Open to all, it would be eliminated for all. To the contrary, the promotion of family is the very reason for society’s existence. As same gender marriage tends toward nullification of the marriage contract, it is harmful to society. The legitimate benefits of the marriage contract are not privileges contrary to equal rights, but rather, are rights prior to, underlying, and in support of individual rights. Of all intrinsic rights and natural allegiances, family is first.

        • JERD

          Well said. Put another way: If marriage can be anything, then marriage is nothing.

          Also, Override does not recognize that to “fully embody” the gift of self, requires openness to the creation of new life.

        • Prof_Override

          My personal position on this issue revolves around 2 words of your reply – “marriage contract”. I believe that the solution to this issue is very easy and straight forward. Those 2 words don’t belong together. First the religious context should be “marriage covenant” and legal context should be “civil union contract”. I think that the government should get out of the marriage business completely. Marriage is the sole and exclusive perogative of religious organizations. Each church to handle the matter as it sees fit. Freed of the burden of marriage, government policy should then focus on whether there is any reason to provide legal and policy distinctions to people who wish to sign up to a civil union contract. The only reason I can think of for why the government has crossed this seperation of church and state boundry is so that conservative churches can use the government to enforce their beliefs on liberal churches.

          • Ford Oxaal

            At some point the civil government would have to enter the picture — and it boils down to a contract issue. Under your scheme, you could have various levels of contracts — indissoluble (Roman Catholic) down to no-fault — there would be a marketplace of marriage contracts. That might be better than the situation where the teeth have been completely knocked out of the traditional contract, as we have now.

            • Tony

              Fornication is the gorilla in the middle of the room here. Or rather one of the three or four gorillas. We cannot sanction the physical and ontological absurdity of same-sex unions without sanctioning fornication. And that, of course, is precisely what has devastated marriage since the sexual revolution. The other gorilla in the room is male-male friendship, or rather the possiblilty for normal and physically demonstrative friendships among people of the same sex. That is gone, once sodomitical relationships are open and celebrated; every simple normal human interchange is going to be seen in light of the sexual habits prevalent. A third gorilla in the room is the unnaturalness of the same-sex eros itself, which is attached to other unnatural desires (porn use among homosexual men is universal, and that is just for starters), so that to approve of one is to approve of the other. A fourth gorilla in the room is the welfare of those teenagers who are timid or unsure or nervous about their roiling sexual feelings — these need to be brought gently into the world of healthy sexual identity, and not encouraged by nearby example to fall into Sodom.

              • Ford Oxaal

                All true, but unpersuasive to the people that need persuading. The purely rational approach is sufficient — (a) the family precedes society, and is the reason for society, and is therefore the reason underlying any and all rights, (b) same gender marriage tends to nullification of marriage. I challenge anyone on the other side of this debate to refute this line of reason (using reason).

            • enness

              It might be preferable, but I doubt it could last — ‘a house divided against itself’ and whatnot.

          • enness

            I have been of that position in the past. I understand where it comes from. Ultimately I had to decide whether I really thought society might unravel, and if so, what responsibility our governance might have to stop it. Yes, I also had to re-examine the whole “limited-government conservative” thing and venture into less strictly defined territory.
            As for the last line, if only it were true that liberal churches (or secular liberals, for that matter) were pepetually the victim and never the agressor…

            • Prof_Override

              Same sex marriage is just the issue du jour. When it dies down, there will be another to take its place. The real battle is the larger schools of thought behind the issues. The razor I’m trying to highlight is Traditionalist vs Conservative. I think of conservative as focused, limited government in all aspects. The Traditionalists tend to track with the economic elements of conservatism, but deviate on the social elements – ready to use government to slow or stop social change. The interesting dynamic to me is the alliance of the Traditionalists with the Post Modernist right (who with the Post Modernist left are the truly coreless players in this game). The truly amoral teamed up with the hyper-moral, and the funny thing is that it seems to work. Now they lost the election (47% is not bad, but it seems to have a bad taste to it), mainly because the Post Modern left are better liars (they’ve got their anger under control a bit better). Being left (no pun intended) on the sidelines are the Modernists of all stripes, they seem to have only brought assault rifles to the fight when WMDs are the weapon of choice – there is no reasoning whether left or right when rhetorical nuclear blasting is the new norm.

      • enness

        If you intend to interpret it that way, there will be little I can do to dissuade you, but for what it’s worth I thought it was pretty clear he was speaking of the inherent complementarity of a man and a woman. “Incarnate [in the flesh] fact” ought to make it especially clear that this is physical as well as spiritual. Yin to the yang, as opposed to yin-yin or yang-yang, you might say.

        • Prof_Override

          I understand where people are coming from on this issue. I’m a married with children, hetero male. My main point is to have churches take control of marriage as a religious covenant again, by pulling the government completely out of the marriage business. Once all government “marriage contracts” have been demoted to civil unions, the social polarization is removed and then it is just about economic benefits. If you’re apposing civil union contracts of same sex couples, that’s another matter completely, because the religious element has now been exorcized.

    • mally el

      Healthy marriages make healthy societies.

    • Pingback: Pope's Caveats on Subsidiarity, Charity, and Social Teaching | Big Pulpit

    • Bedarz Iliaci

      “a polis, a smallish community of people”

      Any odd community does not make a polis. It has to be an authoritative moral community i.e. a State– a self-ruling particular State that has its material cause as land plus the people. That accounts for the neighborhood i.e. lacking the land in the definition, we can not assume that the people are neighbors. It has to be authoritative in that it can execute justice among the people.

      “Smallish” should not be strictly necessarily and how it would be possible in 21C of mega-citiies?. The key point is that of Subsidiarity and given the subsidiarity, the modern State can self-organize into a hierarchy of communities, beginning from the neighborhood and onwards to the modern Nation State.

    • Bedarz Iliaci

      Healthy marriages depend upon a healthy society too. From Aristotle’s Politics:

      Without the City, the rules in the household and the village actually
      become destructive to the human beings, for just like the relationship
      between the growth of the whole and that of the parts, where the latter
      is beneficial only in relation to the former (without respect to which
      it can be cancerous and harm the body). So too is the relationship
      between the rules in the household/village and that in the City. If the
      unequal rules in the household do not aim at the rule among equals in
      the City, the inferior work produced by them will turn humans into
      Cyclops with a natural bent toward war.

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      Professor Esolen is right to invoke Aristotle, the philosopher of common sense, who is really very good on this.

      “Hence in the household are first found the origins and springs of friendship, of political organization and of justice.” [[1242b][1] διὸ ἐν οἰκίᾳ πρῶτον ἀρχαὶ καὶ πηγαὶ φιλίας καὶ πολιτείας καὶ δικαίου.] – Eudemian Ethics Book 7

      It is precisely because of the formation they receive in the home that people are fitted for the task of building up the wider community of the polis or city, in which the virtues learned in the home find their fullest realisation and expression

      This is poles apart from the social contract theories of Hobbes, Rousseau and Locke.

    • Pingback: Left Meets Right at Christmas Door

    • enness

      Wow…outstanding.